30Mosques.com | Day 9: Masjid Aqsa

By Aman and Bassam

Today, I decided to stay in my neighborhood and visit Masjid Aqsa. The mosque is a couple of blocks south of my apartment on 116th and Frederick Douglas. The community is predominantly West African. It is said that this area also houses the majority of the Senegalese in New York.

Similar to other masajid in Manhattan, vendors surrounded the entrance selling everything from Madani Dates to Nike socks. One of the more interesting vendors sold dried fish.


In the prayer area, a man handed out apples and bananas before iftaar. Many congregants bought their own food and were setting it out. There was also a sizable female congregation separated by a curtain.


By the time we got to the masjid, the majority of the congregants were in the basement.


The basement was overcrowded, but everyone willingly made space for us latecomers. With an apple in one hand and a date in the other we broke our fast. The Maghrib prayer was led by one of the three Imams of the masjid. His recitation was so beautiful, I asked the person next to me where the Imam was from. He replied that he was from Burkina Faso. As he spoke, I grabbed my bag and was preparing to leave to grab some halal cheeseburgers. But the brother, Abdul Qaasim, insisted on us to stay and eat with him. In fact, after I was done with the sunnah prayers, I again tried to say my goodbyes when Abdul Qaasim grabbed me by the arm and led me to back to the basement. On the way down, he introduced me to the other Imam and requested one of the volunteers to take special care of us.

The hospitality during Ramadan has been unbelievable. There’s something in the air, and the weather only seems to get better.


I wasn’t able to attend Taraweeh prayers at the mosque, but my friends that did said the sister’s area reached capacity and many were praying outside on the concrete. There is something to say about the comfort and confidence of Muslims in New York City. Sure, with the number of wierd things happening here — I once saw a man displaying korean poetry as he slept in a cardboard box — putting your forehead on concrete might just fall into the background.

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